NEA chairman Dana Gioia made the announcement on October 6 at Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Theater, with two previous Jazz Masters, Paquito D'Rivera (Class of 2005) and Roy Haynes (Class of 1995) in attendance.
Each Jazz Master will be awarded $25,000.
Each year since 1982, the NEA Jazz Masters Award has been given to (living) jazz musicians who have made major contributions to the genre. To date the award has been given to 87 prominent musicians.
Gioia said, "The jazz world has come to regard the NEA Jazz Masters Award as its equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. We are immensely proud that the Arts Endowment can not only honor these American artists but also help them to forge new connections with the public, thanks to the outreach and education programs of the NEA Jazz Masters program."
Each member of the NEA Jazz Masters Class of 2007 has made a distinctive contribution to jazz. Bandleader Toshiko Akiyoshi helped re-make the big-band tradition for contemporary audiences; trombonist Curtis Fuller (a performer and teacher) is a mainstay of the hard-bop era; pianist Ramsey Lewis spans the influences of gospel music, classical music and mainstream jazz; while Jimmy Scott sings everything from ballads to rhythm 'n' blues.
Multi-instrumentalist Frank Wess is being honored as one of the most influential and innovative flutists in jazz history. Master alto saxophonist Phil Woods has been named an NEA Jazz Master in the composer-arranger category, in recognition of his contributions to the modern jazz repertoire. Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, has devoted himself to jazz advocacy as an historian, archivist, author, editor, and educator.
The seven NEA Jazz Masters will receive their awards at a ceremony and concert held in New York City on January 12, as a highlight of the annual conference of the International Association for Jazz Education.
NEA Jazz Masters are awarded based on nominations submitted by the public.